Saudi Mufti, Pope urge caution in using social media

Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti and Pope Benedict XVI have urged people to "exercise proper discernment in the face of the surcharge of stimuli and data" that they receive on the Internet

Gulf News

Manama Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti and Pope Benedict XVI have urged people to "exercise proper discernment in the face of the surcharge of stimuli and data" that they receive on the Internet.

In Riyadh, Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al Shaikh said people could not have the social networking website Twitter as the source of their knowledge if they do not really know who is behind the posted comments.

“If we are to recognise and focus upon the truly important questions, then silence is a precious commodity that enables us to exercise proper discernment in the face of the surcharge of stimuli and data that we receive”
-Pope Benedict XVI
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Fatwas without substantiation

"Twitter is used to issue fatwas [religious edicts] without evidence or substantiation," the mufti said. "It is used as platform to spread lies by some people who seek fame by insulting and denigrating other people," he said in his Friday sermon in Riyadh.

"People should be well aware of such dangers. The site should not be used to exchange accusations or to misquote people. Muslims should be careful not to be drawn into wrong acts and must instead engage in constructive criticism, he said.

Potential hazards

In Rome, Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday praised the significance of digital communications, but cautioned against potential hazards.

"In concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible, profound thoughts can be communicated, as long as those taking part in the conversation do not neglect to cultivate their own inner lives," Pope Benedict XVI said in his message for the 46th World Day of Social Communications.

"The process of communication nowadays is largely fuelled by questions in search of answers. Search engines and social networks have become the starting point of communication for many people who are seeking advice, ideas, information and answers," he said.

Truly important questions

The Pope stressed that people today are frequently bombarded with answers to questions they have never asked and to needs of which they were unaware.

"If we are to recognise and focus upon the truly important questions, then silence is a precious commodity that enables us to exercise proper discernment in the face of the surcharge of stimuli and data that we receive," he said.

The 84-year-old Pope said more silence was needed to balance the relentless chatter, saying that it is important "to open up the possibility of a profound dialogue, by means of words and interchange, but also through the call to silent reflection, something that is often more eloquent than a hasty answer".

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